Officials: Yellowstone superintendent shuffle shouldn’t sidetrack bison quarantine effort
BOZEMAN, Mont. — The impending change in Yellowstone National Park superintendents shouldn’t disrupt the progress of a quarantine program created to produce brucellosis-free bison, officials said.
The transfer of a group of bull bison to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation later this year should still be on track, Yellowstone bison program manager Tim Reid said.
“I think there’s a world of hoopla and speculation that’s kind of overarching things,” Reid said. “The reality on the ground is that we’re moving forward with quarantine.”
National Park Service officials signed off on Yellowstone’s quarantine program about a month ago. It’s designed to produce disease-free bison for transfer to tribal governments and other conservation herds and to reduce the number killed during Yellowstone’s annual population control efforts, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
The project was one that park superintendent Dan Wenk had hoped to see through. But Wenk recently told The Associated Press that he was being forced out of his job.
The Interior Department announced last week that the National Park Service’s Midwest Regional Director Cam Sholly would replace him. When that will happen remains unclear.
The National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife and the Fort Peck Tribes expressed concern over the change last week in a release, saying that Wenk has been “instrumental in the political negotiations allowing buffalo to return to tribal lands” and needed to remain on board to finalize agreements with state and federal agriculture officials.
Yellowstone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state livestock officials are still finalizing an agreement on how things will run at the park’s corrals.
About half of Yellowstone’s bison are believed to have been exposed to the disease. There have been no documented cases of bison transmitting the disease to cattle in the wild.
The quarantine plan approved this spring calls for keeping bison in the park for several months and then sending them to Fort Peck. The Fort Peck Tribes have said they plan to distribute the bison to other tribes, and they’re eager to get the program moving.